dealing with a recalcitrant neighbor about weed trees

davidrt28 (zone 7)July 29, 2013

I share a long property line, > 100', with one of the town's grand poobahs, a former local politician. I live in one of those rural areas where even if you've been here for 50 years, you're still an outsider. He's arrogant and the rest of the neighbors have warned me of their snobbishness.

They've allowed several weed trees to grow exactly on the property line - under power lines no less. They are norway maples. My property is to the south so these crap trees are leaning over my yard to reach the sun. A couple years ago I sprayed _my side_ of a sapling with roundup, and killed it off. At some point the carcass was removed. A couple years ago, one of his sassafrases, also a sapling that should never have been allowed to grow, fell into my yard and damaged some of my trees. If it had fallen the other way when the trunk split, it would have taken out the power lines, setting us up for a multi-day outage.

I got fed up with another one about a month ago and sprayed it too. Yesterday he confronted me about the fact it was slowly dying. I made up some excuse that it was a wet year and that could have given it a root disease. Frankly, I was only spraying _my_ side of the tree, and according to the great american principle of property rights, it should none of his GD business what I do on my side of the property line. So I have no obligation to tell him what I did.

Wonder how other people have dealt with these circumstances. There's really a case in civilized municipalities for laws saying nothing of a certain height can be planted w/in 10' or whatever of a property line. Again, from a property rights POV, it's really about protecting the rights of _both_ parties. I wonder what he would think if I bought 20 poncirus trifoliata seedlings and planted them 3 inches away from the fence on MY side, so that his multitudinous grandchildren could poke their eyes out on them. Would he like to deal with that? Amazing that someone reached his level of life achievement without having a basic grasp of cause and effect. Norway maples directly under a low power line? Not a good idea.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Mon, Jul 29, 13 at 11:39

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Why don't you educate your neighbor on why it is not a good idea then?

Seems like it would have been a good opportunity to do so when he brought up the demise of the other one. Such as saying it is probably best anywasy because "...."

I'm guessing your post is a vent. BTW I doubt spraying it with round-up is considered within your rights. At least in my area you are allowed to trim branches overhanging your yard without doing damage to the tree. Round-up would be considered damage.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 2:13PM
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several options:
ask him to go in on the cost of removal with you, contact power company to see if they will cut them, get a survey make sure you or he actually own the property, get the justice of the peace, or whomever deals with neighborly conflicts, involved.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 3:57PM
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100' is a long border but good fences make good neighbors.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 4:26PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Well, as a former local politician, he has an answer for long as it suits him. He told me years ago, when I politely pointed out that they were weed trees, that he has his landscaping company come out every year to make sure his trees are healthy. When this came up again yesterday, he said his company "makes sure they aren't tangled in the power lines." But the sassafras was clearly going through the power lines for years and they did nothing about it. They were probably looking forward to the clean up bill when it fell. I so wish it had fallen the other way and taken out the power lines, just so I could say, "told you so."

I don't know where he expects these trees to grow. They can't go up because of the power lines (there's always a chance the lazy power company will trim them, if it has any sense), they aren't going to grow on my side because I am definitely w/in my right to trim them, so that leaves a tree whose crown will have to hideously lean over into his yard. What's the point? He already has other shade trees over there that shade his patio. He never even uses this part of the yard as far as I can tell.

BTW my power was out for 3 days of Hurricane Irene because of another tree branch that fell about 3 houses down. Really, if it weren't for the power lines, I would just consider his actions incredibly un-neighborly. But letting a Norway Maple grow up through the power lines is just an infuriating act of idiocy.

If the situation isn't resolved soon, I'm planting poison ivy along the fence. Maybe that will make a point about "do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Since he clearly thought I was going to confess to the grievous wrong of killing his precious weedy sapling, he will have no right to do anything about the poison ivy, either.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Mon, Jul 29, 13 at 23:06

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 4:39PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Tanowicki, there is a fence, but of the pasture type. Interestingly, another neighbor put a tall fence along their side of his property...but I can't remember what dispute triggered that but I do know it was because of some kind of disagreement. That wouldn't really address this problem, because you'd just have your fence getting damaged by falling branches in a few years.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 4:46PM
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It sounds as if you have already have developed such animosity toward this next door neighbor that it colors all of your thoughts about him. It would be best to keep to what's within your rights, and put thoughts of retribution out of your mind. After all, it doesn't sound as if he is actually deliberately wronging you. It sounds like he's doing what millions of others do ... allow weed trees to grow and in possibly not the best places. You're within your right to scalp his landscape "work" right back to the property line so why not let it go at that? Worrying about a power outage that he may never never be the cause of sounds like you have too much time on your hands. Threatening to plant poison ivy sounds like you might need to see Dr. Freud yourself. What's on your side of the line? Could you alter the landscape there so it better helps you achieve your goals?

1 Like    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 5:02PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

"animosity toward this next door neighbor that it colors all of your thoughts about him"

Oh, don't worry, there's plenty to go around. The neighborhood's tea party busybody was expressing outrage to me a couple years ago about how high his state pension is. (my point being my concern is far less petty)
Paging Dr. Freud over poison ivy? No, you should page Freud over my other thought, which was to walk around my yard wearing a baby diaper and sucking a pacifier when his grandchildren are in their yard. Perfectly within my rights? Absolutely! Neighborly? Nope. They would find that about as morally offensive as I find norway maple seedlings all over the place to be horticulturally offensive.

Again, to make it clear, I already approached him nicely about this some years ago. In fact I sent him an email in case the words were too complicated and needing several goings-over. When I killed the first maple a couple years ago, he said nothing about it but cut the stalk of it away. Thought maybe he realized I was doing him a favor. Guess not.

Part of what I'm genuinely disgusted over is just the overall lack of a rule of law and lack of common courtesy. If something along MY side of the fence offended the grand poobah whose family goes back hundreds of years here, you can be sure as hell as it would get fixed, and fast. However, I pay the same taxes, but I moved here in the mid 2000s, so I'm not a grand poobah. I've seen this over and over in these corrupt little dorps. Another old local family has kids who ride their ATVs in the street. If I did that, it would be a problem. As it is the cops let it slide...when I complained I got the most ridiculous excuse you can imagine as to why they couldn't enforce it. In fact the cop practically admitted that their family was an important one, and that different rules applied to them.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Mon, Jul 29, 13 at 17:38

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 5:33PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

And, for the record the other family I share a property line with have cut back a couple of these seedlings when they got to about 8' tall, even though their yard is generally not as well kept as the poobah's. Without me even asking. Since, you know, they realized that allowing them to grow was unneighborly.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 5:53PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Ok I admit I was venting because I'm at the breaking point not only with these neighbors but another one too. Won't even go into their issues, except to say meth is a terrible, terrible thing.

However, the 3rd neighbor is actually a very sweet older lady who I've had no disputes with of any kind.
There's a mulberry tree along our property line, that's leaning into _her_ yard, because she's to the south of me. Of course I wouldn't plant such a junk tree, it's decades old. (no power lines though) Her son, who is no doubt thinking of having to sell the house in a few years when she is too infirm to live there, asked me this spring about removing the tree. I sad I'd rather not because it's shading some important rhododendrons. However, I was planning ahead and put an Ilex near those to give them afternoon shade. It's not quite high enough but those should be able to fend for themselves soon. Maybe I'd have to water them if we have a very hot year in the next few years, but I'm willing to deal with that. I called her this afternoon and reminded her of her son's request, and I said "let him know he can remove that tree if he wants."
So, that's some good that came of this at least. If there's one thing I can't stand it would be being a hypocrite.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Mon, Jul 29, 13 at 20:28

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

I hear you davidrt! we have the same kind of guy in our neighborhood, and we are unlucky enough to share a property line with him and his access road is across our property. his claim to fame is that he was here before anyone else and he thinks that makes him a poobah. it's not just us, he has had run-ins with other neighbors. we all vent occasionally to keep from acting out and make the best we can of living near him. hang in there, you aren't alone. min

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 7:13PM
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Check your local state/county laws about this.

Have a similar situation with a rather nasty neighbor whose mother planted some trees and shrubs right on the property line decades ago. Now the roots have extended well into my lawn area.

I did look up in my state statutes regarding trees on boundary lines. Turns out even if the tree is overhanging onto my property if I end up killing it I could be liable for the damages.

It's one thing to trim overhanging branches, but the law may not be sympathetic to actually killing the tree/shrub, etc.

Never a good thing to plant right on a boundary line. I empathize with your frustration. My neighbor has also made enemies with everyone on the street with her attitude.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 10:37PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Thanks alygal.
WIth how many ridiculous laws there are regulating ridiculous things, certainly, a law requiring the removal of weed saplings under power lines in a residential area would NOT be nearly as ridiculous as some already on the books.

I'm sure Asphlundh (or however it's spelled) are obligated by their contract to investigate every consumer request about branches and powerlines. if the remaining maple reaches the power lines (hopefully roundup finishes off the one that is dying) I'm going to start calling the utility once a year to complain about it. If they have to come back enough times hopefully they will just cut it down to grease the squeaky wheel and leave him an _official_ notice of his idiocy on his front door or however they handle it. I had complained about the Sassafras when I moved here because it was so obviously an accident waiting to happen, with the trunk right next to the power lines, but they left me a note on my door saying "tree currently doesn't pose a threat". As I said its trunk split and fell into my yard, had it fallen the other way it would have taken out all the lines. (power, phone, cable) If these stupid companies would just come through once a year and remove all such saplings using their right of easement, they'd save themselves huge problems later. But that would be planning ahead, which isn't a part of American capitalism anymore, apparently.

What's so galling is I surely could have spotted this thing 5 years ago when it was 12" high, and removed it without him ever being the wiser. I would NEVER have done what I did to something that was actually planted, even if it was a POS tree purchased at Kmart. Of course I kick myself for now for not having done that, even though it would have been doing his weeding work for him. Apparently, after they get 3' high, "the lawd done blessed up with a tree" and it must be allowed to grow up...the sky's the limit.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 11:05PM
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Neighbor problems can be so hard, sorry.

I've never heard the term "weed trees" -- does that refer to certain species, or just to an opportunistic seedling?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 11:50PM
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Most areas do have some limitation of what can be done on one's property within what would be considered landscaping. it's a balance of freedom to do as one pleases compared with the benefits of regulation. Not everyone would draw the line in the same place. But those who want a greater degree of regulation can find the answer in subdivisions with covenants between property owners that preclude undesirable property use.

As to the use of roundup on plants partially on a neighbors property, law in my area is clear. One may prune back limbs or roots to the property line without regard to any damage that might be suffered by the plants/trees. One may not allow substances to cross the property line that may damage a neighbor's property.

Roundup is a herbicide that trans-locates throughout the plant, crossing the property line in the process. One damaged in this way is entitled to have all cost of replacement with a similar sized tree. If it takes court action to assert his rights, he will be entitled to court costs and all legal fees. If the court determines the damage was motivated out of malice, punitive damages may also be awarded.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 12:37PM
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After reading through this discussion, I'm not sure there IS a viable solution to this that will make everyone happy. I get the impression this may be a bit of a more rural area and outside of defined municipal boundaries, laws that determine what can and cannot happen along property lines get a little less defined - if they exist at all. And it sounds like there are "political issues" that may override any of those anyway.

Do what you can to minimize the impact on your property without permanently damaging the plantings......unless of course your neighbor agrees to any removals. Hiring a tree hazard assessment specialist (generally a certified arborist) may be worth the investment as it will result in written documentation to support any claims requiring removals.

One alternative is to move :-)

And 'weed trees' is a term used to apply to chance seedlings and generally of undesirable species, like Norway maples or other invasive or colonizing species. In my area, one of the most common weed trees is red alder - harmless but virtually omnipresent. Another is bigleaf maple and while a native species, one that seeds itself around rampantly and often develops with serious structural issues

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 2:02PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Thanks for the replies.

"One alternative is to move :-)"

Well, exactly. BEWARE the lure of cheap land (I have 3 acres) in a semi-rural area. It's just completely unbelievable to me I've having to ask myself, "who is more distressing to me, the methadone and meth addicts on one side, or the arrogant jerk on the other side who has a brazen disregard for common sense." And this is considered one of the better neighborhoods in this county...though my property saddles an older and newer section of it. This isn't the only cr-p I've had to put up with. There were very distressed barking dogs for over a year...I think someone had started a puppy mill. They sounded like they were being tortured. I never complained about it because it seemed futile...this county's SPCA went bankrupt a few years ago, among other reasons! I just thought, "wait until it irritates someone important, and the problem will go away." Sure enough it did.

To give a little more background about why I didn't do something sooner, the area where the weed tree is was a little patch of wildings when I moved here. Brambles, multiflora, poison ivy, etc. To his credit...I suppose...when he retired a few years ago he cleared most of that out. The sapling was partly disguised by some azaleas on my side and i really didn't think of them as anything but remnants of the weed patch. I kept thinking, 'surely he's going to finish those off, too', but he never did. It's only along my border that he allowed things to go wild like that...i don't think he got along w/the previous owners of my house, either. The border with the only neighbors he actually gets along with is clean as a whistle.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Tue, Jul 30, 13 at 15:35

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 3:26PM
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thanks for the info gardengal. learn something new!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 4:57PM
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